The Gundam franchise is an enormous to say the least, in Japan that is. As for America, it’s never really caught on to the mainstream anime fan base. Even the nostalgically loved Gundam Wing isn’t rated very high by anime fans who aren’t reminiscing on their childhood. But that’s not to say their aren’t hard-core Gundam fans in the states. It’s just I’m not one of them. My favorite Gundam series has to be Gundam Build Fighter followed by Unicorn as a close second. The only things I’ve seen besides those are 00 and Seed/Destiny. So I’m not one who’s particularly well versed in the “Universal Century” timeline of Gundam. And if you aren’t either that’s perfectly fine because Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans has your back. Of the few Gundams I have seen this one is already standing out from the rest and it’s not too hard to figure out why.
For me the thing that always has been inaccessible about Gundam is the politics, and believe me every Gundam (well besides Build Fighter) loves its politics. Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans starts out like most Gundams with some deep, in media res, politics. Only as opposed to other series in the past, I understand what is going on only after watching the episode once. The delivery of the “plot” is easily digestible and it doesn’t linger or pretend we have to care about whats going on just yet. It just gives us some good plot points on what the relationship with mars and earth is, and why this group called “Gjallarhorn” wants to kill the martian equality spokes girl Kudelia Aina Bernstein. For now its all we need to know and the show doesn’t try to give us early information of foreshadowing to make it seem like it has dramatic depth. Its counting on the fact that the characters that the story surround are compelling enough to keep you interested in what is and will happen to them.
Which is another great thing about this show that I don’t really see in any Gundam shows (Remember though I haven’t seen many). Orga and Mikazuki are a treat, and I don think there has ever been a relationship as interesting as theirs in a Gundam show. At least not one that is a major focus of the show. It’s great how Orga and Mikazuki can be so opposite of each other and still be brought together by the same goal. It’s also easy to see how they deeply depend on one another to help find the meaning to go on in the cruel and ruthless planet mars.
Sure their bond is deep, but its the rest of the Chryse Guardian Security force that really lets us get to know the motivation of both these characters. Honestly I don’t think they’ve spent time with any child soldier who I haven’t liked. It’s a ragtag team of child soldiers, which is easy endearment bait. But the show knows better that to leave it at that so they tone down the depression of being child soldiers and focus heavily on them trying their best to cope with their situation together. Which is more compelling to me. Its still a hard show and it lets you know that the lives these “child soldiers” are living is terrible, but its not playing off as edgy tragedy bait.
As for Kudalia, I’m not quite sure how to think of her yet. Sure it seems like that everyone else is condemning her for being sheltered nobility that doesn’t know anything, but the show doesn’t frame her like that. It’s really interested in her growth of understanding and isn’t so much as blaming her for not knowing but helping her come to terms with the reality. Given my past experience with Gundam (which again I haven’t seen a lot of) there is always some less progressive plot points with the female characters. Gundam has never been known to have strong female characters and usually focuses on the bad ass males. Hopefully they will do some interesting things with her, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one. There is another girl character as well who seems to be interested in Mikazuki romantically. Thats something to look out for as well.
The art and visuals are what you expect from a Gundam show. The characters look very appealing and never really go off model. The desert setting, which is usually very bland in most shows, is able to remain pretty with the soft palette and bright colors that they incorporate.
Only two episodes and I’m hopefully optimistic for where Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans is heading. The message in this show seems more basic than others, which is good in the long run as to not seem convoluted. It’s about kids fighting for a better life in a world that is trying to do everything to not let that happen. And boy do I want to see Orga and Mikazuki help shift that status quo. As for now, all I can think of for next week, is if they will still be shirtless when they go into space.
Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans is streaming for free on Daisuki.net